Emiya Shirou kneels over the blackened body of Saber with the Azoth dagger raised high. They did it. He and Rider defeated her. Bits of Shirou's mind are flaking away, but the glowing pale gold eyes of Saber, once so green, are still clear. It hurts. Everything hurts. His arm -- Archer's arm -- is screaming with memories that are his, and not his own. His body aches with cuts, broken bones, lacerations, and pain made metallic by the swords already growing inside him to compensate.
But what hurts the most is while he knows ... he knows that while there are places, people, faces, names he's already forgotten -- parts of him that are are erased more thoroughly than anything the Fuyuki Fire had ever done to him and his sense of self as a child -- he can still remember her. He can still remember Saber. And for all the apathy she showed before in fighting them, Saber's eyes are clear now.
She's made it clear to him that she wants this. Even knowing that sparing her will allow her to kill him and Rider, after everything they've gone through together, it's going to end like this. Shirou's vision wavers, not with the onset of unconsciousness, but moisture. He can somehow see droplets of water glistening down Saber's blackened armour. He knows what he has to do. It's for Rin and ... and ... the one he has to protect, right? Purple hair ... violet eyes ... darker than Rider's hair, but similar. There is a faded ribbon in her hair. The greed of her body against his, surrounding his, her burning flesh and generous body consuming him, draining him over and again as it her entire being gasps, breathing for air, for physical warmth, for contact ...
I am your sword, Shirou ...
"You don't have to do it like this, you know."
Shirou blinks. He looks up from where he kneels over Saber and everything suddenly feels strange. They are still in the cavern under Mount Enzou, where the Grail -- the Heaven's Feel Ritual of centuries has gone horrifically wrong -- but the shadows are different. They are still moving in the periphery, but somehow they are more sluggish. They swirl and move more slowly, like water in winter, until they seem to freeze entirely. Even the baleful red lights from where Tohsaka left up ahead with their copy of the Jeweled Sword and grim purpose looks somehow more artificial: like the cut outline of light and exaggerated models of particles instead of the real thing. It's as though Archer's eyes, along with his arm and memories have truly taken over the rest of Shirou's being. But he can move his head and sees Rider, in mid-stride coming towards them, battered and bleeding and exhausted, but caught in mid-motion. Somehow, while it seems as though forever is sloughing across his skin, he knows it hasn't been that long, and it won't be for more longer.
"There has always been a light inside of you. I wonder if you know how to use it."
She is tall. She's tall and long white hair surrounds her face. Red eyes look at him with some sympathy, but with far more curiosity. She is glowing. The woman resembles an angel in the snow. She reminds him of someone ... the person's memories from ... given from someone to help him make the Sword for Tohsaka. But she looks like someone else too. .
"Are you ..." Shirou cannot find the words as the swords keep screeching through his mind, his rusting, fraying Magic Circuits culminating into the pain and confusion of his very being.
She smiles, sweetly. "No." She sighs. "I don't know if it will take this time, Shirou. I've tried many other times. Don't have much time, I'm afraid. Literally." She giggles. "You're going to have to figure it out on your own."
"... I don't remember you." Shirou mumbles. "What thing ... I don't ..."
"All those memories you're losing, Shirou. They're being overwritten."
"Yes." Shirou slurs a bit. "Someone told me that would happen ..."
"Yup. It will kill you. Very badly. But, another hint won't hurt, right?" Her pale, long fingered hand pokes his chest gently like a feather, or a ghost. "You haven't forgotten everything. Not yet. It's just a phase. And if you don't remember the light in you, I'm sure your arm will. Muscles have memories. They remember what the mind forgets."
She kneels down and wraps her arms around his midsection. He is surprised that doesn't feel pain when she hugs him. She buries her face under his shoulder blade and murmurs. "I think you can do it, this time."
Shirou enjoys the gentle warmth of the white-garbed woman before his heart beat accelerates and the blood comes rushing back into his ears. He looks down at Saber and hears Rider staggering towards them. He remembers now. A kaleidoscope of memories, with an added ironic tint to thought with regards to the word "kaleidoscope" whirls through his mind and he remembers the words of Archer ... spoken to him at some point, at this time, or another ...
If he can't save Saber himself, Sakura ... to save everyone, he needs to envision something that can.
His Magic Circuits, from his borrowed arm, and outwards scream. They reach deep inside of him, searching, finding something, taking something out from him far beyond Archer's invading Reality Marble. Deep into an inventory. Into the darkness. Something beyond his corrupting body. Something incorruptible.
A shape is forming in Shirou's mind's eye. Something like a shield. It is glowing golden. The Azoth dagger falls out of his hands as they take on almost a life of their own, reaching that final stage, ripping something pure, and perfect from his ravaged being with one greater moment of Projection ... then something beyond Projection. Its name, its being, beyond human, beyond mortality flares through his mind.
Rider is holding Shirou upright, as Shirou's hands continue to clutch the object he has summoned from within him. His mind wanders only for a bit as he remember's Rider's beautiful, square-pupil violet eyes and immediately turns away from them. He is in agony, but somehow feels even lighter. Perhaps a little emptier. He looks at the gleaming gold of the object in his hands. So is Saber. Somehow, her ashen face has turned even more pale. Her eyes are wide with shock. Shirou looks at Excalibur, with its blue runes and silver sheen that had the potential to be golden turned black and riddled with red veins like the corruption that took Saber ... that took Sakura.
"Rider ..." Shirou wheezes. "Let me put this in her."
The Servant's eyes also widen in incredulity. "That is a Noble Phantasm. What ... is it?"
Shirou sighs. "It will stop her." He looks down at Saber. "It will stop her better than my dagger ever could."
"No ..." Saber murmurs. "No ... don't."
"What is going on?" Rider's tone turns dark. "She's regenerating. It's time to end this."
"Yes." Shirou says, taking the artifact and placing it over Saber. "It is."
"No. Don't do it. I'm ... already regenerating." Saber says. "Finish me ..."
Suddenly, Shirou feels a blade at his throat. Rider jerks his head away, so that he won't look at her eyes. "You remember the deal, boy."
"My Master told me to keep you safe. But I will save her. And Saber will keep us from that."
"She won't do anything."
Rider's metal nail digs into his skin a little deeper. "I can smell the healing magics on that artifact. I told you I'd kill you if you risk Sakura's life."
Shirou exhales. "Saber won't be hers after this. She won't be anyone's."
Rider pauses at the steel, certain tone in Shirou's voice.
Saber's eyes have somehow grown wider. They are pleading. "Please don't do this, Shirou."
Shirou takes a hand and strokes Saber's hair.
"Saber ... I'm sorry."
Shirou focuses his mind and presses Avalon into Saber's lacerated breastplate. The golden glow of the Noble Phantasm burns through the darkness. The sheathe returns into its owner as she screams. Saber is screaming as she writhes on the ground. The magic of Avalon burns against the oily, putrid darkness of Angra Mainyu's curse. The incorruptible fights with the ultimate corruption with Saber flailing between them. Shirou watches as these two forces finish the healing that Saber's body had already been undergoing, but conflict inside of her. Tears roll down Shirou's face at the agony his former Servant, his friend, Saber must be experiencing.
Rider removes her chained dagger from Shirou's neck as he stumbles back onto his feet, but not before picking up his Azoth dagger again.
Shirou stumbles past Saber, walking towards the tunnel. Rider watches the other leave his former Servant writhing on the ground. She fingers her dagger, but realizes it will do absolutely nothing to the other Servant. She follows Shirou, catching up to him swiftly as he stumbles again, catching him.
"You should have killed her." She says, quietly, putting her blind back onto her eyes. "It would have been far more merciful."
Shirou's fist clenches around the Azoth dagger. Tears drip down his face. He pauses for a few moments, wanting to get back to Saber, wanting to comfort her, feeling horrible at what he has done.
"I don't have much time left, Rider. Come. Let's save Sakura."
Rider nods, and the two of them walk away, leaving Saber's screams echoing in the darkness left behind them.